What’s new in this story?
–A developer ousts Haitian property Stores from two shopping streets he recently bought near NE 2nd Ave and 82 St in Miami.
– Developer Thomas Conway was accused of unjustifiably attacking Haitians and treating non-Haitians better.
– Most companies have monthly leases, and Florida law allows landlords to terminate these types of leases with 15 days’ notice.
–Some of the stores have been open for decades, including a Haitian-owned tuxedo shop that has been in operation for 32 years.
– The chronic road construction has also put companies in great distress. One barber says he lost 60% of his clients to construction in the past year.
– Haitian community activists are calling for officials to step in and support the affected companies.
Little Haiti is about to get a lot whiter.
That’s if you believe dozens of business owners and community activists in Little Haiti who claim a real estate developer is forcing Haitians out of two business districts in a fast-disintegrating area of Miami while treating white owners better.
The commercial streets are on the east and west sides of NE 2nd Ave near the 82nd St.
The buildings were recently bought by Thomas Conway, a young real estate entrepreneur operating in the northern part of Little Haiti.
The buildings are full of dozens of businesses, from a travel agency to a bakery to a metro PCS.
Most of the businesses are run by Haitians.
For the past two months, local shopkeepers have said Conway tried to evict them.
Several owners claim Conway refused to accept their rental checks so he could get rid of them, and court records received by the Miami Herald show that the new landlord has already initiated eviction proceedings for 13 of the 15 stores on 8200 NE Second Ave. 201 NE 82nd St.
Most companies have monthly leases, and Florida law allows landlords to terminate leases with as little as 15 days’ notice.
The situation has become so unsustainable that many of the business owners convened a press conference on Thursday with the Haitian human rights group Family Action Network Movement (FANM).
To add to their misery, an ongoing construction project has ripped open parts of NE 2nd Ave for almost a year, dramatically affecting business in the area.
The iconic Miami restaurant Football Sandwich Shop has been closed for several months due to the same construction.
FANM chairwoman Marleine Bastien said many business owners were upset that local authorities had not offered financial support to their troubled businesses.
“Some wonder if you can get it out like that?” Bastien asked during the press conference. “Because when companies are affected, they usually get some kind of relief. But not these Haitian companies. “
Bastien also said Haitian businesses are being discriminated against for being the only ones Conway told Conway to leave.
Ramon Alvarez owns a barbershop on the strip of the west side of NE 2nd Ave.
Alvarez said that Conway lied to his face about what his intentions were about the future of the building and that the decision to oust his hair salon was racially motivated because of its Haitian staff.
“They see this as a black business,” said Alvarez RISE NEWS. “Everybody out. I don’t know, it’s scary. “
Alvarez said that Conway seemed very sensible when the new landlord first approached him a few months ago after buying the property.
Alvarez said Conway told him the plan was to fix the building and put a new roof on.
Alvarez also said Conway told him the rent would gradually increase from its current $ 1,400 per month to $ 3,500 per month.
Alvarez said he was okay with this new agreement.
“I can do it, and if one day I can’t afford it, I’ll say, ‘Mr. Thomas, I have to go. ‘”
But Alvarez said Conway changed his mind and even refused to take a rental check.
Now Alvarez said he was told he will be evicted.
He’s not the only one.
“I’ve been here for eight years,” says Pierre Richard Maximillien, owner of a travel agency. “The guy next door who sells tuxedos and wedding dresses has been there for 32 years. It’s a lifetime. “
A few doors down from Alvarez’s barber shop, Lucia Garcia runs The Furtnitue Store.
Attending the press conference in support of the Haitian owners, Garcia said she felt that Conway treats her business differently from the rest.
Garcia is Hispanic American.
“We have not received any threats,” Garcia told RISE NEWS. “We have not received any eviction notice. We got vacation until June, supposedly because of construction work. But we received a completely different treatment. “
Lina Hargrett, the owner of the empty apartment, said she only recently signed a one-year lease to stay in the same building where Alvarez and Garcia have their shops.
Hargrett said she was not asked to leave the building and she did not appear to be aware of the controversy.
Hargrett has a fair complexion.
Hargrett’s Store and Metro PCS are the only two stores that don’t appear to have been affected by the move.
Both have a two-year lease.
Conway refused to speak to a reporter from RISE NEWS when he was reached by phone on Thursday and hung up.
“Sorry, I can’t take that call right now,” Conway said before hanging up. “I really appreciate it.”
In 2015, Conway opened MADE At The Citadel, a well-known co-working space on NE 2nd Ave and 83rd St.
In 2017 it was reported that he intended to convert the building across from MADE At The Citadel into a dining hall.
A rendering of this building called The Citadel is available online.
The Citadel was formerly home to the Federal Reserve in Miami and got its name from, Waiting For, a historic fort in Haiti.
Gary Louis has worked as a hairdresser in the business that Alvarez now owns for over 15 years.
He has to pay to keep his chair there and has stayed even though he lost 60% of his business to road construction.
Louis said he stayed because he was excited about the changes in the neighborhood and thought it would benefit him.
“The city didn’t do anything for the Haitian community,” said Louis. “So now something comes to life where we’ve seen the city finally take care of the community. But now the way I see it is not being cleaned up primarily for the Haitian community. It’s just mainly for a new type of business that doesn’t involve the Haitian community at all. “